Team GR: We know that families are more than autism, and during Autism Awareness Month, we want to highlight them! Jackie participated in our Rescue Family Grant Program four years ago and recently opened her own business to help pay it forward to families like hers in Bangor, Pennsylvania!
How has life been since participating in the Grant Program?
The Grant Program opened a door into a world I couldn’t have imagined. I found answers and questions at the same time. I learned that I was not alone and that most of my child’s symptoms were more than just “autism.” Doctors finally agreed with me and listened.
Autism really is a puzzle. Finding pieces that fit together has taken patience, hard work, and so much unconditional love but once you find one of the many pieces, it is huge. Despite it being over four years since we received the grant, Generation Rescue is still a huge resource and support and I have them to thank for helping me continue to find more pieces to our puzzle.
Why is your family more than autism?
In the beginning, I would say “autism” with pain and sadness. It was a word that was defining my family and my child. It was an excuse. I was blaming autism for things we couldn’t do as a family or for things my son couldn’t do.
We are more than autism because we do not accept a diagnosis or word to define our family. We will continue to question our child’s health, we will continue to find answers, and we will live our life to the best of our ability, despite the special needs of our child. Autism is just his diagnosis.
What motivated you to open your business?
When I saw how much of a positive impact changing my son’s diet had on his health and behaviors, I realized we had been eating the wrong way our whole lives.
I became more educated on GMO’s and other harmful ingredients that are added to our foods. I began juicing and making smoothies and I loved it. I put in my 5 year plan to open a juice bar or smoothie shop.
Three years later, when my father opened his convenience store, I opened Green Vida Co alongside it.
We make smoothies, smoothie bowls, salads, and sandwiches. I wasn’t sure how my small town would embrace Green Vida, but so far everyone is very happy that they have a place where they have better-for-you options.
What challenges do you face, raising a child with special needs, while also operating a family-run business?
Luckily, I have gotten lots of support from my husband and family. My sister and two sisters-in-law work with me and we cover for each other when one has family to attend to. They have been my saving grace.
What do you hope to accomplish from opening your business? What do you hope your kids will take away from this experience?
Besides fulfilling a personal dream, I truly wanted to bring something different to my community. Bangor, PA is a small town and we don’t have many options when it comes to eating out. The nearest place to get a smoothie was 30 minutes away. People should always have a choice when it comes to eating. They also deserve to know what their food is made with.
Green Vida tries to be as transparent as possible and anyone can see what ingredients we use. We offer healthier alternatives and use as much local ingredients as possible. Local means fresh. It’s also important for small businesses to stick together.
I want my children and other women to see that dreaming leads to reality and hard work leads to accomplishment.
Why did you want to donate a portion of proceeds to Generation Rescue?
I think autism awareness month is always about learning the signs of autism. Although it is important, I feel that it should be much more than that.
There are organizations like Generation Rescue that are proactive and actually do something to better the lives of children with autism. Their money goes directly to the families, not advertising on statistics. There are doctors out there that are treating the co-morbid conditions of autism and helping our children feel better, not using autism as an excuse for every symptom that the child is having.
Generation Rescue has helped many children and families by assigning them a physician, paying for lab work, assigning a mentor, providing natural supplements and alternative therapies, all free of charge. This is huge.
Starting a business is hard, but there is always a way to help out. I felt that through my business not only could I help out but also show people what Generation Rescue is all about. My son received a grant four years ago and my niece received one about 2 years ago. We can attest to the help Generation Rescue provides for families affected by autism and we are forever grateful.